About half of the homes and housing units in the U.S. were built prior to 1978 – the date when the use of lead-based paint was banned. Which means if you live in an older home or apartment, it’s likely that there’s lead paint lurking somewhere inside. Lead paint is a concern because as it ages and breaks down, it can flake off into household dust and soil. This poses a hazard to people and especially children, as lead is a highly toxic metal. The most common way people are exposed to lead is by accidentally swallowing it. Lead poisoning can lead to damage to the brain and organs like the kidneys, nervous system and blood. It can also cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and seizures. Experts advise frequently cleaning your home can help keep you and your children safe from accidentally being exposed to lead. The areas of greatest risk are windows and doors, where frequent opening and closing can cause the paint to chip and break off.
If you rent a property or buy a house, the law requires that the landlord or seller disclose to any known lead-based hazards on the property. If you are concerned about lead paint in your home, here are some steps you can take:
- Find out the year your home was built using your local library or city tax office.
- Search for a rental housing or daycare property in Michigan’s Lead Information Registry to see if lead issues have been addressed (this database begins with work completed in 2015).
- If you’re a homeowner, hire a certified professional to test and safely remove lead from your home.
- If you’re renting, check your lease to ensure you signed a lead-based paint disclosure with your landlord, and check with the city’s building department to see if your property is in compliance.
If you need financial assistance to test and remove lead paint and materials, there are several local and state-wide programs that can help:
- Apply for the state of Michigan’s Lead Safe Home Program
- Find a local program on the state’s list of local lead hazard control services
- Contact your county’s health department
Older homes are also more likely to have older plumbing and fixtures, which could pose a risk to lead contaminating the drinking water in the home. Up until 2014, drinking water faucets could contain up to 8% lead. If you live in an older home, flush the taps for at least 30 seconds before drinking the water and use cold water for drinking and cooking. Exposure to lead is preventable. For more information on resources available to Michigan residents, visit Michigan.gov/lead. More from MIBluesPerspectives:
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